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Balkan Report: October 27, 2000

27 October 2000, Volume 4, Number 80

'The Hour Of Europe' In The Balkans? As election day in the U.S. draws ever closer, the discussion there has heated up regarding Washington's future role in the Balkans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). Whatever the outcome of that debate may eventually be, there are folks in several European NATO countries who are chafing at the bit to show that Western Europe is perfectly capable of taking charge of its own security matters. These views are making themselves felt despite across-the-board military spending cuts in most European countries and, above all, despite Europe's less than stellar record in dealing with the various Yugoslav crises since 1991. It is as though some Europeans had forgotten that it was only due to NATO under American leadership that peace came definitively to Bosnia, indirectly to Croatia, and eventually to Kosova.

The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 16 October that some German political figures hope that the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) will lead to the continent's "emancipation" from America. Instead of regarding the U.S. as the country that protects -- and has long protected -- them and their oil supplies, such Europeans see Washington as a "hyperpower" -- the term is of French origin -- that is tyrannizing them. This, they argue, was shown by the Pentagon -- rather than NATO -- making the key decisions in Kosova. Washington, they add, made it clear to Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary from the start that it retains a veto in all NATO matters -- which, of course, is a gentle hint to the newcomers as to where they should buy their arms.

These opinions are no stranger to the French political scene, and perhaps to some others as well. Former German President Richard von Weizsaecker (CDU) in a recent speech lambasted the "hyperpower" in such strong terms that the U.S. ambassador was prompted to walk out of the room. The Frankfurt daily, for its part, finds such "Euro-Gaullist" views particularly pronounced in parts of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), including in that party's foreign policy committee in the parliament.

Some elements within the party have a long tradition of being less than enthusiastic about the transatlantic connection, although the SPD as a whole generally endorsed it. Perhaps the best known of the skeptics is veteran party thinker Egon Bahr, who spoke for years about an ill-defined "German interest." While not stating so openly, he implied that this interest is different from -- if not inimical to -- that of the U.S.

Since his retirement from active politics some years ago, Bahr could afford to be much more explicit. His 1998 book "German Interests"* suggests that Germany's best guarantee is within "Europe," by which he means a classic 19th-century-style power constellation of Paris, Berlin, and Moscow. (The remaining smaller fry are not necessarily asked their views.) The system is centered on nation-states and is almost quaint in its geo-political approach, despite the advent of globalization. And as he and others often did in their Euro-Gaullist writings in the 1980s, Bahr is careful to back up many of his points with statements by people like Henry Kissinger or by unnamed "American experts."

To his credit, Bahr wrote the admittedly provocative book in hopes of launching a serious discussion of vital security issues. But, as some commentators have pointed out, there were few politicians anywhere on the spectrum who were willing to leave the rough-and-tumble of daily politics and rise to his challenge.

That includes many who espouse views similar to Bahr's in private. The Frankfurter daily notes that these Euro-Gaullist politicians rarely discuss their views openly. Perhaps they are wary of somehow antagonizing the U.S. prematurely. Or perhaps they know that such beliefs will not go over well with the voters.

Whatever the case, there are clearly those in Europe today who are anxious to follow the call of Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jacques Poos in 1991 and proclaim that "the hour of Europe" has come. This is despite the fact that EU member states have not been able to send enough police and judges to Kosova to help keep order and establish the rule of law -- as the French chief civilian administrator there as repeatedly called for.

In reflecting on Euro-Gaullism, one is perhaps reminded of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's comment on pre-war Italian colonial ambitions: there is "such a big appetite but such poor teeth." (Patrick Moore) (*Egon Bahr, "Deutsche Interessen," Munich: Karl Blessing Verlag, 1998.)

Three Lessons Of The Past Decade. James B. Steinberg, who is a former U.S. deputy national security advisor, wrote recently that Europe can count on a peaceful, democratic future only if Western leaders apply the "three crucial lessons of the past 10 years" in the Balkans. "Those lessons are: that Western democracies must be prepared to use force to thwart violent opponents who threaten key interests; that Europe must hold out the promise of full integration to new democracies; and that those seeking peace in the Balkans must not assume that the battle has been won [simply] because Milosevic lost his presidency. We must remain engaged for the long haul.

"If the West fails to follow through on a multi-year, focused effort to help southeastern Europe reap the benefits of peace and democracy, we should not be surprised to see a new Milosevic arise -- whether in Serbia or elsewhere in the region -- exploiting people's fears and disappointment and unleashing yet another Balkan conflict. If that happens through our neglect, we will have only ourselves to blame." (Patrick Moore; from the "San Jose Mercury News" of 15 October)

A New Beginning? Kostunica Visits Montenegro And Bosnia. Just two weeks after taking office, Yugoslavia's new president, Vojislav Kostunica, visited Montenegro last weekend in a bid to reach agreement on a new Yugoslav government. Kostunica also traveled to Bosnia where he announced the imminent establishment of diplomatic relations between Sarajevo and Belgrade -- pending the formation of the new Yugoslav government.

Vojislav Kostunica, hailed by many in the West as the savior of democracy in Serbia, wants to preserve the common state of Serbia and Montenegro, though he concedes the name Yugoslavia may have to be sacrificed.

But certain problems need to be resolved first. The Yugoslav federal constitution requires the federal prime minister to be a Montenegrin in the event that the president is a Serb. But the Montenegrin government, led by President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), boycotted last month's federal presidential and parliamentary elections.

They claimed that the ballot was unlawful because the constitutional changes that enabled the elections to be held and diminished Montenegro's role in the federal parliament were enacted without the participation of Montenegro. For this reason, the Djukanovic government does not consider Kostunica to be the legitimate president of Yugoslavia. Djukanovic and his party also object to serving together with pro-Milosevic politicians in a new cabinet.

Montenegro's main opposition party, the pro-Milosevic Socialist People's Party (SNP), won the parliamentary elections in Montenegro and has agreed to participate in forming a coalition government. Their nominee, Zoran Zizic, is slated to become federal prime minister.

Kostunica agrees to Zizic's appointment and says that he is making every effort to ensure that the federal government will composed of experts with as wide a representation of parties as possible. Nonetheless, the government's core structure will consist of two parties, his Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) and the SNP. Kostunica believes that the cabinet will be approved by the Yugoslav parliament by the beginning of next week at the latest.

Noting the absence of the Montenegrin ruling parties in the government, Kostunica stated said that "at the moment we are forging a government out of the parties that took part in the federal elections." But he added that both the DOS and Zizic's party would welcome Montenegro's ruling parties into the federal government. Last week, Zizic said that the reason his party had to be represented in the new government was to ensure that Slobodan Milosevic would not be extradited to the UN tribunal at The Hague, where the former president is indicted for war crimes.

Before visiting Montenegro on Sunday, Kostunica traveled to Bosnia-Herzegovina, the first visit by a Yugoslav leader since Milosevic came in 1993.

Kostunica went to Trebinje in the southernmost corner of the Bosnian-Serb entity to attend the reburial of a Serbian poet and Yugoslav diplomat, Jovan Ducic, who died in exile in the United States in 1943. Trebinje is a long-time chetnik and monarchist stronghold. Kostunica had decided to participate long before he was even nominated to run for president. The Bosnian Foreign Ministry initially expressed outrage at Kostunica's participation, but its anger dissipated once the international community intervened.

An RFE/RL correspondent reported from Trebinje that the participants greeted Kostunica with "stormy applause," although he did not address the gathering. The entire Bosnian Serb leadership was present as were the leaders of Bosnia's religious communities and Liljana Karadzic, the wife of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic whom The Hague tribunal has also indicted for war crimes. (Radovan Karadzic once won a prize for poetry named after Ducic.)

The head of the United Nations mission in Bosnia, former U.S. General Jacques Klein, escorted Kostunica from Trebinje to Sarajevo in a UN helicopter for hastily arranged talks with the Bosnian leadership at Sarajevo airport. Kostunica told reporters afterwards that Yugoslavia's recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina is "the issue of the day." "Our meeting today represents a very serious normalization of diplomatic relations between Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I'm convinced it will be realized at the moment when the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia forms its new, democratic, federal government."

Kostunica also called for full compliance with the nearly five-year-old Dayton peace accords, including their references to the existence of the Bosnian Serb entity, the Republika Srpska.

The current president of the Bosnian presidency, Zivko Radisic, a Serb, also expressed support for the renewal of diplomatic relations between Belgrade and Sarajevo, while respecting the continued existence of the separate Bosnian Serb and Muslim-Croat entities.

"This was an opportunity and we are expressing our readiness and willingness to establish and develop relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [while] respecting the existing territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country and state," Radisic said.

The new Muslim member of the presidency, Halid Genjac, said he expects both sides to agree on specific steps to improve relations.

After meeting Kostunica at the airport, Bosnia's Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic, a moderate Croat, said: "We support Yugoslavia in its effort to reach an association agreement with the European Union, but on condition that Yugoslavia undergoes the same procedure for acceptance into European integration as all other countries."

Klein called the meeting "historic." He added: "We all know that we cannot change the past, but if we work together we can build a better future." As Klein then put it, "today is the beginning of the future." (Jolyon Naegele)

Starting Them Young. In today's interdependent age of globalization, it's never too early for young people to start pursuing excellence and being their best with a career in the information field. Two young men who "get it" are Nikola Seselj and Marko Poplasen, both of whom are on the payroll of Zemun's information systems office (ZIPS). Zemun is the Belgrade suburb that until recently was run by the Radicals of Vojislav Seselj, who happens to be the father of Nikola, who happens to be 15. "Vesti" of 24 October did not mention photographer Marko's age when it reported the story, but it did note that he is the son of former Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen. It is not clear whether the young men received any stock options. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. "Europe is more than an economic zone." -- Pope John Paul II, quoted by Vatican Radio on 21 October.

"With what [Kostunica] did yesterday [on his two-hour visit to Sarajevo] he proved that, if he wants, he can significantly depart from the dishonorable legacy left over from his predecessor. However, ordinary people in our country do not greet Kostunica with open arms, which is not astonishing. The reason for the widespread public skepticism towards the new Yugoslav leader should be...found in the fact that everything that came from [Serbia] in the last ten years was not good for Bosnia and its citizens." -- "Dnevni avaz" of 23 October, quoted by Reuters.

"More than anything else, we are waiting for the beginning of a process of 'de-Nazification' in Serbia. How about an official apology for the suffering that was brought upon us in the name of the Serbian people?" -- Baton Haxhiu, editor- in-chief of the Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore." Quoted by the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on 14 October.

"Then we would need five KFOR soldiers to guard one Serbian policeman who is guarding a couple of Serbian civilians." -- Haxhiu on Zoran Djindjic's proposal to send 1,200 Serbian policemen and soldiers to Kosova to protect the local Serbs.